3 Baghdad children die; toll grows

BAGHDAD (AP) — A mortar barrage killed three children and their uncle as they played together outside their south Baghdad home, the latest deaths in an insurgency that claimed a total of six lives Wednesday and showed no signs of slowing down.
Twelve-year-old Sabaa Haitham, her younger brother Sajjad, 10, and their eight-year-old cousin Mina Mohammed Abid died when one of two mortar rounds slammed into their home in suburban Dora, Yarmouk Hospital morgue official Razzak Hassan said.

The children’s uncle, Lu’ay Salih, in his mid-20s, was also killed in the 6:00pm (1200GMT) explosions that peppered their victims with razor sharp pieces of incandescent shrapnel.

“What have those kids done to deserve this? They were just playing in the front yard,” said grieving Haitham Salih, father of Sabaa and Sajjad, outside his demolished house. “It’s a disaster I lost two of my children, my brother and my niece.” Insurgents also trained their guns again on Iraq’s fledgling security forces, who have become daily targets during a wave of violence that has killed at least 765 people since the April 28 announcement of Iraq’s new government, according to an Associated Press count.

Two policemen were killed in separate drive-by shootings in western Baghdad’s Amil district and the northern city of Samarra, police said.

The numbers of Iraqi police, soldiers and civilians killed in May sharply increased on April, according to officials from three different government ministries. It was unclear if the three ministries were working with the same set of data.

Some 151 police were killed in May, compared with 86 in April, up 75 per cent, an interior ministry official said.

At least 325 policemen were wounded in May, compared with 131 in April.

Dr Sabah Araji, of the health ministry, said 434 civilians were killed in May, up from 299 killed in April.

Some 775 civilians also were wounded last month, compared with 598 in April.

A defence ministry official said 85 Iraqi soldiers died in May, compared with 40 in April. Another 79 soldiers were wounded, compared with 63 in April.

Defence Ministry Spokesman Radhi Badir, who has been collating the figures of insurgents killed in Iraq, told the AP that more than 260 insurgents were killed during May, including about 140 in two US-led offensives in western Iraq.

A suicide bomber attacked a queue of vehicles waiting at the heavily guarded main checkpoint to Baghdad’s International Airport early Wednesday, wounding 15 Iraqis and signalling the vulnerability of Iraq’s even most vital facilities.

Eleven Iraqis inside a Shiite mosque were wounded when a car bomb exploded outside a Shiite mosque in the Khalis area, some 20 kilometres east of the city of Baqouba in Diyala province northeast of Baghdad, said army Col. Abdullah Shamri.

Amid the raging violence, Iraq reached out to the international community for greater security and political aid.

In New York, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said US-led forces must remain in Iraq until the country’s own soldiers and police can take responsibility for securing the nation amid its continuing insurgency.

“I’m a realist, OK, and we’ve seen that before. We need to complete this mission with their help,” Zebari told The Associated Press in New York late Tuesday.

Acting US Ambassador Anne Patterson, speaking on behalf of the 160,000-strong mainly US multinational force, said if Iraqi authorities need the force to stay, it shouldn’t leave “until the Iraqis can meet the serious security challenges they face.” Following another Iraqi request, the US and European Union will hold a joint-foreign ministerial level meeting June 22 in Belgium to let the new government lay out “its priorities, vision and strategies” ahead of elections later this year, State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher said.

More than 80 countries and international organisations have been invited and Iraq would send a large delegation, Boucher said.

In a sign of how violence and politics merge here, officials in Iraq’s volatile western Anbar province chose a new governor just days after his predecessor was found dead in a hide-out for foreign fighters.

Anbar council member, Khibir Abdali, said colleague Maamoun Sami Rashid Alwani was chosen to succeed former governor Raja Nawaf Farhan Mahalawi, whose body was found Sunday bound, gagged and chained to a propane tank inside a building used by foreign fighters.

Mahalawi was abducted May 10 and his body was found in Rawah, northwest of Baghdad, after a fierce battle between foreign fighters holding him inside the building and US troops outside.

The former governor died from a severe head trauma, said the US military, apparently from rubble that collapsed after the building was damaged during the fighting.

US troops killed two Syrians, one Jordanian and one Algerian inside the house and wounded another two Saudi Arabians and a Moroccan, who are now in military custody.

The US military also announced the capture of a former Saddam Hussein regime spy Monday, who was among least 113 terror suspects detained during US-Iraqi raids throughout Baghdad since Sunday.

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